Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Birds of a Feather

We flocked together on Saturday at the Norris Conference Center. About 150 middle-aged (for the most part), avid genealogists. Our speaker was John Philip Colletta, whose latest book I had purchased a few months ago. We contemplated the topics of compiling narrative family histories from all the data we have collected over the years.

It's a subject I have spent time pondering. How does one present 35 years of research to the public in an entertaining format? I have 16 notebooks full of dry data that nobody would be interested in, unless they were trying to build their own genealogy.

But, sprinkled in amongst the births, marriages, deaths and burials are a few fascinating stories. There is my great-grandfather who left his wife and enlisted in the Navy under an assumed name. My great-great grandfather who was accused of child molestation during his divorce proceedings. My great-great grandfather who spent 6 months camping in the bitter cold as a volunteer cavalryman in support of Custer's pursuit of the Cheyenne in post Civil War Oklahoma and Kansas. And a few scandals that are still buried in the annals of my family history until enough time has passed to blunt the shame that was felt by the relatives. All juicy stuff with potential for spinning a good yarn for public consumption.

Mr. Colletta surprised us by pointing out how many books are on the best-seller lists that were inspired by family tales that have been passed down. A few years ago Cane River was published by a lady who wrote a fictionalized accounting of her family's history. It made Oprah's Book Club. It gets you thinking...would my family's history catch the attention of folks who had no blood connections?

This past year has seen a slump in my genealogy research. Too many details and problems in real life to spend much time on lives in the distant past. I've had to fight myself to produce any writing in the arena of genealogy. But I felt a flicker of interest stir as I listened to Mr. Colletta talk about the family legend that became the basis of his book Only a Few Bones . And yesterday I found myself jotting notes for a possible newsletter article. I'm hoping that the tide is turning and I will find my inspiration again.

Nothing like the association of like-minded folks to whet your interest. It's time to get back into that genealogy maze. Perhaps it's time to consider what format my book should take.

Hot dog. I'm back in the saddle again.


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